Monday, July 20, 2015

Blair Bish is Trying Something New to Get Race Ready

it somestimes goes straight to his butt, which helps keep his hips up.. haha.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Meet Carri Cook from TYR

In my last post I gushed about the TYR Avictor and now I want to gush a little more about the girl who let me give it a try.  Carri Cook covers a large part of the USA for TYR and hopefully after getting to know her a little in this interview you will want to seek her out to see what TYR can do for you and your team.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I Prayed to Odin. He Sent TYR to help.

The Norse God of Warriors knows how to make a suit.

It is July 15 and I am at the first day of the Mizzou Sectional. My only athlete who was scheduled to swim today had to scratch so I ended up being the only race for my team. I have hardly been able to fit in much swimming, only getting in four very short swims since June 24th.  I had absolutely no reason to expect to swim well, but lately I have the mindset to never back out. I have surprised myself enough times that it is always worth racing to see what may happen. I shaved legs today but left the hair on my face, chest, and belly, which is a pretty significant furry layer at this age. I may shave more for Futures in West Lafayette but I am not sure. 

After warm ups, I decided it was time to look into finding a deal on a tech suit. I caught the TYR rep on deck and told her about my AP-12's being stolen. I was hoping she had one to sell for cheap since they are rumored to be discontinued. We talked a little about potentially signing my team with TYR since we have never committed to a brand, and then she offered to let me try on the Avictor. HELL YEAH!

I warmed up a little more in the suit and then raced the prelim 200 breast with it. In my opinion, it is a fantastic suit. So many tech suits catch water at the waist and are hard to tie tight enough. That was one of the things I loved about the AP-12: the waist never caught water, even without the high waist model. The Avictor had a better string that didn't slip as much when trying to get it tight, and also had rubber at the waist which is something that has become more common in tech that the AP-12 didn't have.  The fabric on the Avictor also seemed to be a lot thinner but it didn't feel like they sacrificed any strength.

The fit on the Avictor was the same, but the compression was very different. I have tried a lot of suits, and there are many varying degrees of compression across the thighs and hips on the market. The Avictor had excellent compression at the hips but I worried that it felt less tight at the lower thighs than what I was used to. After racing the 200 breast though, I can understand why they changed the design. My kick felt much more free. It was like the best of both worlds, with effective stability and compression, but the freedom of movement that allowed me to get the most from my range of motion. I felt like my kick was less restricted and more efficient than with other compression suits I have tried.

My race went really well.  Even after the huge roadblock in my training this summer I was able to drop two more seconds from my best time with a 2:29.9.  Even better, my last 50 was by far the best split I have turned in at 38.8.  I had much less fade today than ever. As a matter of fact, the entire amount of time I improved over last summer's shave meet is covered by the difference in that last split. It is kind of mind-blowing when you consider that I was trying my best to overcome what should have been a lack of fitness due to my crazy schedule over the last three weeks.

These might be my best race splits ever for the LCM 200 breast.
The best part: I met one of my short term goals. The time I turned in officially lands me on the FINA Masters all-time top ten list for my age group. Take a look here... 2:29.94 lands me at the 8th fastest in history for age 40-44. Not bad for a guy who is just squeezing in short workouts in on the fly and didn't bother to shave anything higher than the knees. I turn 41 next week so I am really anxious to see if I can carve out enough training time over the next three years to move up on that list.  I wish I could get off work to go to Masters Nats!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Lesson on Intensity

One of the few difficulties I have run into with USRPT is that it seems to be very difficult for the average kid to have the mental will to do it correctly. To truly practice race pace there has to be a specific level of intensity involved, and many young swimmers are inclined to do as little hard work as they can get away with. The athletic mindset requires fighting human nature a little, and with a large team of kids who had grown up training in a way that allowed them to coast through a large percent of their time in the water, it seems almost as though many feel that they are doing enough by just showing up.  Sometimes it's like they think the comfort zone is an intentional training zone. Even worse, they can act as though a good day of training or racing is something that just randomly happens to them as though they are waiting their turn for the best time fairy and she just seems to like some kids more than others.

If I actually get a chance to fit a workout in myself, it is a completely different experience.  I start getting anxious hours in advance.  I get nervous that I might finally go hard enough to hurt myself, and I prepare myself to give the pain required it's time. I warm up with purpose, making sure I leave myself no excuse built in. I push during the set to make sure that any fail I have is caused by fatigue and not some other factor that implies a lack of focus. I can't always control my schedule, but I can control my own body and mind. I try to make the most of every minute. 

By the time I reach my third fail the lifeguards are wondering if they are going to need to call 911. 

I get pretty frustrated sometimes when my swimmers don't even look like they got their heart rate up on these sets. I can tell when the intensity is on or off. It is hard to watch when the majority of a large group just seems to be okay with mediocrity in training.  Often I make my swimmers continue beyond their third fail just so they aren't incentivized by free time as a reward for doing a lousy job.  

Last night at practice we did a set of 20x50 at 200 free pace. Only about three out of 35 swimmers made it past number 8 before their first fail. Over half took the 4 freebies easy and then failed number five. So after they finished I pulled them out. I explained that since these sets are based on their own best times, I know they weren't even trying. Many looked around as though I must be talking to someone else. It wasn't a fun moment. 

So we did the set again. I told them that if they made ten in a row with no fails (and no freebies) the set was over. If they failed any of the first ten, they had to continue all the way to twenty again. It changed the incentive. They had five minutes to swim a 200 easy if they want it before we started. Not much rest really. 

Taa-daa!  Every one of them made a better score to first fail than they did on the first round. All but two made it to ten with zero fails.  Amazingly, when I looked through the notebook, ten was the best x score of the season for almost all of them. 

So then, I got to ask them, "WHY?"

It was a rhetorical question, obviously.  I felt like I got the answer from the looks on their faces. They finally looked like they had just finished a hard race. They were breathing hard enough that there were no conversations happening.  A couple of them were sprawled on the deck like warriors wounded in battle.  

It was beautiful.

I can only hope that the message came across in a way that makes them value their time enough to not waste it.   When they get their next chance to make the most of an opportunity, I hope they remember it is a matter of choice. I would choose to take pain rather than waste time any day. 

I guess maybe a big part of my job as a coach, no matter the type of training, has always been to convince others that it's a good trade. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dr Noakes, Spreading the Word on LCHF

Viking has made it pretty clear he is a Dr Noakes groupie over the course of writing the Manifesto and beyond.  I stumbled across a couple of videos of his that I thought were worth sharing with anyone who checks in at the Brief because they are considering the low-carb/high-fat lifestyle.  I had to at least make a few people pay attention, right?

Take a look and let me know what you think...  It was nice that he mentioned Cameron VanDerBurgh.  Now I am waiting for a world class distance swimmer to admit they do this, you know, because us breaststrokers are freaks and whatnot.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Play the cards you are dealt

Lately, circumstances have been standing in the way of my training, and I am not sure it is going to get any better in the foreseeable future. The Viking Experiment just may come to an end if something doesn't change.

First, summer is just plain busy.  I was looking forward to the summer practice schedule getting into full swing because I knew that I could get more swims in but it didn’t work out that way.  I typically swim the warm up and one USRPT set with my team before getting out of the water to coach the rest of the practice.  The deal from day one though, was that if my swimming became perceived as a negative for my team I would stop.  After over a year of swimming with the kids I had my first parent complaint about it, so that part of my swimming comeback is officially over.  If I am going to keep training, I will have to fit it into the nooks and cranny’s between duties.  That is pretty darn hard for a teacher/HS coach/USA coach and administrator whose in-water groups tend to overlap for 12-15 hours straight every day.  I still hold fast to the rule that my swimming will not take away from my family time, so that leaves me very little options.  I plan to plug away the best I can, but I am not sure this is an obstacle I can overcome.  My swims have been reduced to usually less than twenty minutes each and have become fewer and further between. Also struggling to get more than five hours of sleep at night which certainly doesn't help.

Second, I have less racing opportunities this summer, and this is the first summer in a while that I have ever found a way to take a real vacation!  Trust me, I am not disappointed that I will be able to get out of town for a week this year.  My family and I desperately need the break… but it means that I will be out of training for 10 days straight until about 8 days before sectionals.  Again, that’s okay… I have nothing on the line.  I will have fun racing anyway and I still think I will swim faster than last year.  It’s not like I would be training much if I were staying home anyway, right?  Most of my target sets have been lagging lately, and my push times after USRPT sets haven’t been great either, but once in a while I bust out a gem like the 2:44 LCM 200 breast last Thursday evening.  I have never been that fast in practice before, especially in a brief with hair on my legs and no dive.  I think that swimming fast at sectionals will be more of a matter of being “race ready” than “in shape” this year.  Also, I feel like my Viking Method for some reason helps hold the de-training effect off for longer.

The thing that might redeem my summer?... I plan to swim at the Futures meet at Purdue in early August.  That gives me a few extra weeks to get on top of it before the summer comes to a close.  I am considering not even shaving for sectionals and putting all of my eggs in one basket for Futures.  We’ll see how this evolves.

This is the bonus and curse of being an adult athlete.  I have nothing at stake except my pride, and I honestly don’t have that much pride invested.  My goal is to enjoy my swimming.  Of course, I enjoy it more when I see improvement, but if there is a bigger picture here, it is that I want the kids to see that swimming doesn’t have to be a chore.  This is truly a lifetime sport and it is meant to be fun, and not enough of us live that example.  Of course, it is hard to keep that in perspective as a self-improvement junkie who still thinks he has a lifetime best in him, but I will manage the best I can.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Michael Andrew Adidas Deal

I had been wondering for quite a while why no swim gear brands had signed Michael Andrew yet. Of course, he is young and nobody knows what the future holds, but in marketing one would assume that world class speed is not the only thing that matters. Ideally, if you want to sell swim suits you want your brand to be talked about and that is something Michael Andrew has in spades. Plus, his age makes him more marketable for youth.  As a matter of fact, if I were in the marketing department for these companies I would find some athletes living the dream in Masters swimming and sign them too, because if there is anything we can learn from triathlon it is that adult fitness is booming and we need to get creative to capitalize on that. (I mean, come on... If they sponsored me I could help them sell some serious suits to the older crowd, right?  Everyone at masters meets would want to wear Adidas and horned helmets if I were their mascot. Masters swimmers don't care what the fast 25 year-old wears; they care what the kind of fast for his age guy having more fun than everybody else wears.)

Perhaps the big brands were afraid of the vitriol associated with the flaming comment wars on all the swim sites, but that doesn't seem right to me.  I would think they would welcome it.  It gets their product noticed.

My thoughts on it all?... I think that suit makers were afraid of the Andrew family and their controversial pioneering of USRPT. Think about it: we have a very vocal old-boys network who hates it and has had ties with suit companies and their decision makers for decades. Basically, by sponsoring Michael Andrew, a suit company would be bucking the system. They would be essentially endorsing the training that holds the potential to make those coaches they have had long relationships with seem like dinosaurs. I feel that suit companies had been afraid to rock the boat with some of their most powerful partners and that has caused them to miss out on a gem.  Even if MA never wins an Olympic medal in his life he has already accomplished things in this sport that will be remembered for a long time.  He has brought Ultra-Short Race Pace Training to the masses.

Michael Phelps said he wanted to change the sport, but really, what did he do to change anything?  He got us more airtime on ESPN I guess, (tabloids too if anyone is really impressed by that,) and built a personal fan base, but hell, there are mommy-bloggers out there with a pretty large Twitter following as well. Michael Andrew is changing the game by showing us a new way to excel in this crazy sport, and he has been noticed enough to be well on his way toward accomplishing that mission before he has had any Phelpsian level international success. 

So, what does this say about Adidas?  It says that they are entering the suit market with guns blazing.  Michael Andrew is not the only athlete they have signed since jumping into our sport, with Cesar Cielo, Allison Schmitt and more on board before MA, but adding Michael to their list is a brave step. Adidas is new to the game and owes no loyalty to anyone. They see our sport as a fresh and exciting market, and I think that their endorsement of Michael Andrew says that if he and his training have the potential to be a game changer for swimming, they want to be a part of it.  They are sailing their ship into uncharted territory with no fear about what they will find in this strange land.

So, here's to Adidas.  I hope I am right, and that this company has come into competitive swimming intending to make the other tech suit makers feel like they have missed an opportunity by maintaining the status quo. I feel this was a really good move. 

Congrats to the Andrew family as well. This is a very exciting time for the sport of swimming and I hope that this partnership with Adidas serves to make your passionate pursuit to change the sport a more rewarding experience. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


One of the reasons I really like USRPT is because it gets straight to the point with each swimmer and asks the most important question "Are you motivated to improve your swimming?". A frequent criticism of the training is that it's the "same sets over and over again". Must be boring, right?

Wrong! In my three weeks of training I have never had more fun training for swimming. Far from boring, every set has my mind working at 100% capacity, as I try to improve my technique, hit my paces and manage the start times (and keep count). USRPT, and the question it begs, has brought quickly into focus for me what I want to accomplish and why I am motivated for it. In talking through motivation with my swimmers, I have cited Deci and Ryan's self determination theory which I find particularly strong in outlining motivation.

For Deci and Ryan, the highest point in the hierarchy of motivation is intrinsic motivation, which is defined as "the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequences". I enjoy the challenge of coming to the pool and trying to work on my swimming, and although I do have a goal of how fast I want to swim, I hardly think about it. My focus is on what I can do each day to improve myself, and then whatever comes from that is a bonus.

Ok, on to the workouts:

Wednesday, June 3rd

The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x25m turns
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 15

How it went: By far the worst workout I have had to date. I was anxious after the nearly week long lay off necessitated by my trip to Bergen, Norway for a competition. I showed up at a time I don't typically swim, but one at which I figured would be relatively empty. Instead, the lap lanes were surrounded by loud schoolkids and there were probably 7-8 lap swimmers in each of the 50m lanes. Training in public swimming time can be a problem with this type of training- everyone around me is going much slower, and just swimming continuously. I finished my warmup fine and managed to negotiate my turns alright. When I started the set, I found it completely impossible to do it. On each of the 25s I attempted, I either swam right up on somebody and was unable to pass, or I got a fist in my back while resting for the next repetition. There was simply no room to do the practice, and no time to wait the situation out. I completed maybe 6x25, but without any idea what my pace or time was. I was frustrated and a bit anxious that my great work from last week would be squandered.

Thursday, June 4th

The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x20m start and breakout
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 15

How it went: By the next day, I decided I just need to shake it off and go after the same practice again. I arrived in good time and with adequate space to do my training. I was able to do 20x25 at my new pace (15 sec), with 12 in a row to start, then 6 and 2 more before I felt my lactic acid spike and shut it down for the day. I felt really good that I hadn't given up on challenging myself despite the layoff. My main focus technically is getting my legs to keep a small amplitude and good frequency, because I am working on the same with my swimmers and it allows me a stable plane to rotate from.

Monday, June 8th

The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x15m breakout
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 15

How it went: As I wrote earlier, i have temporarily set breaststroke aside and I am focusing on freestyle. I have added 15 minutes of stretching to the end of every training, because I know I need to improve my flexibility before I can progress with my breaststroke technique. This workout went great! I made 28x25 on pace 15, with 22 in a row, then a break and 6 more before I felt my lactic acid spike again and decided to shut it down. I feel like if I give myself adequate rest and recovery I will be able to do 30x25 on the next go around, and then possible set my pace down to 14 already. However, I know that might not happen quite so fast so I am going to take improvement as it comes and just focus on each day on it's own.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Highs and Lows

Thank goodness I don't have to start this post with a longwinded introduction. Since writing my last post, I have been to the pool for three swims! I had to cram them in three days in a row, which I didn't feel was ideal, but I knew I was going away to coach in Bergen, Norway over the weekend and wouldn't be able to swim. It is one of the great paradoxes of coaching that you are constantly around a pool but it is hardly ever appropriate for you to be swimming in it.

Tuesday, May 26th:

The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x25m turns
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 16

How it went: Success! I managed to crank out 30x25 at my pace in this one, and damn it felt good. I made 18 in a row to start the set, then rested and did 8, then finished with four. It felt really good to build up to this. On the other hand, I know I am going to progress fast at the outset because I am so "untrained". One thing I noticed about a set where I swam so much continuous was how hot my body got- I was sweating for 15-20 minutes after getting out of the water.

Wednesday, May 27th

The workout:
3x100 warmup
8x20m breaststroke breakouts
30x25 breaststroke, pace 20

How it went: Man, breaststroke is hard. One observation I have is that when you are doing breaststroke your work to rest ratio can be a little off. You are naturally always going to be slower, so I set my time all the way up to :20 rest and pace :20. However, I still really struggled to get anything going. I was still only able to 14x25, with 8 in a row, then 4 and then 2. Everything felt hard- I got some lactic acid, I struggled to hold technique and my pace fell apart. I think that I may have to be really patient in breaststroke, and that also my flexibility is really holding me back at this point, so I need to correct that ASAP.

Thursday, May 28th

The workout:
3x100 warmup
8x15m freestyle finishes
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 16

How it went: 30 in a row! Damn did that feel good. After Tuesday, I told myself I would force the pace up when I made 30 in a row, and now I suppose I will have to. It was really good to get into a rhythm and keep firing. The biggest challenge I had was that I was training in a crowded lap lane, where everyone else just wanted to swim continuously at a much slower pace. Invariably I was swimming around someone, or getting rammed in the back while I was resting, and I had to screw with my rest intervals both up and down to make sure I had space to swim. I didn't let it stress me out- these are the conditions that I GET to train under and I cannot control other people in the lane.

Looking forward: I know that in about three weeks I will be headed to the European Games in Baku. Because of various logistical crazyness, I will be there thirteen days for a five day swim meet. Supposedly there will be a pool at the Athletes Village where we will stay, but already I am preparing myself that training conditions could be rough or non-existent. We shall see!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Viking's new routine is starting to flow...

Lately I have been finding a groove with my minimal modifications to the full USRPT method.  I don't really feel like I am breaking away from it at all, but I have tried a few hacks to make up for my lack of ability to consistently train.  For example, last week, my Friday workout time was hijacked by extra work duties, and this week I was only able to get in the water on Tuesday morning for 1000 yards and Friday for 1400 yards.  Seriously... 2400 yards of training over 8 days.  That is just something I had to accept from day one of this comeback adventure. I make the most of what I have and don't stress about the rest.

Here is where I try to make up for some of it, beyond my USRPT sets for 100 and 200 breast:

  • I still run because it is easy to fit those in. I run early but it isn't hard to get going.  I can put in anywhere from 3-6 miles, and can be anywhere from 7:10-8:40 per mile pace depending on my mood.  Later I plan to alternate in a lot of short sprints and jogs rather than just steady state runs because that is when I see improvement.  Right now I just run out of guilt. 
  • After almost every USRPT set I do, I give myself a couple minutes to recover and then push a fast 100 or 200 for time.  This started because on days I didn't make a good score on my targets I wanted to redeem myself.  What I found was that actually doing the race has helped me to apply race strategies in a new way and I have been able to use it as an additional gauge for improvement. Plus, I think that it takes me to that "point of failure" that we seek in USRPT and helps me focus on keeping race technique. As a matter of fact, I still have not mastered 20x50 on 50sec at 32 high, even though my recent shaved times would put my target at 31 high... But my practice runs of the push 200 have improved from 2:28 to 2:15.  
  • I like to pull parachutes. There is something about breaststroke with a chute that helps me get my timing where I want it. I don't like using tools much but this one I kept. I also bought a pocket drag suit and when I am feeling lazy (just don't have the mental will to hit USRPT hard) I will work breaststroke kick with a board wearing it.
  • Mini-Max: after warm up, before my USRPT set, I like to do a mini-max or two.  If you are not familiar with this, it is like an efficiency game where a lower score is an improvement.  Your score is your time for a 50 plus the number of strokes it took you to complete it.  I feel like this also helps my timing and keeps me from rushing.  I started with a couple different combinations of 45, like 29+8+8 and 31+6+8... but I have since worked my way to a few 43's that were 30+6+7 and 31+6+6. (And yes, the pullout counts as one stroke.) 
One thing I have found is that my morning swims aren't always as good, so I keep track of my best scores and times in the morning versus the afternoon.  Also, I finally get to try long course next week, and I intend to start at my paces based on where my sets landed at the end of the summer rather than jumping in with targets based on my new best shaved times. 

And oh yeah, one more big thing... Running seems to kick my butt and often my next workout or two can be lousy. I plan to cut that out about three weeks before my biggest meet. I think it hurts breast a little more than the other strokes simply because stiff legs interfere with the whip kick more than the others. 

If you are out there giving USRPT or LCHF a try, please drop a note and let us hear how it is going!  I feel like we are taking a ship into uncharted territory here, to places where the good old boy network is afraid to tread! I am pumped that Chris is on board now too!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Once More Back Into The Fray

Relationships are the most important thing in life. That simple sentence explains exactly why I'm here, writing this blog. The nature of each relationship is quite different, and the ones that brought me here couldn't be more different. Today I'm starting up writing again with a simple goal: to document my own journey back to competitive swimming. Depending on how you count, there are at least four relationships that led me to this point, which I'll explain briefly.

The first is my wife, who has always been the one to gently (or not so gently) push me in the direction I need to go. In the past few years, my swimming has fallen by the wayside, put on the backburner of being a first time dad while trying to cope with being the head coach of a swim club in a (sort of) foreign country. As the two of us emerge from the dramatic shift of being parents, she's started to push me back to two things that make me happy: writing and swimming.

The second is my blogging mate, Shawn Klosterman, who has really inspired me to give it another go. Watching him crush it at Pro-Ams at 40 years old reminds me that my tender 31 years is far too young to give up on doing something awesome in this sport. Shawn and I have still never met in real life, yet his encouragement, guidance and motivation definitely brought me back.

The third is actually a group, the swimmers I coach. Recently I have shifted to training a USRPT (Ultra Short Race Pace Training) training program. Some swimmers are thriving! Others are struggling a bit with the change, but slowly finding their way. In my own comeback, I intend to train pure USRPT, and I want to show them how I handle the various challenges and problems I encounter along the way, hopefully it will help them to figure out things for themselves as well.

The last one is my daughter, who I'd like to set a good example for, and not give up my most important goals because "it's hard".

Without further ado, here's my workout blog:

Monday, May 18th- The First Attempt

The workout:
3x100 warmup
6x15m breakout
30x25, 100 freestyle pace (16 sec, determined from a few weeks prior recording a 1:03 relay split 100m free, SCM).

How it went: I completed 14x25. Initial thing I had to get over was my embarassment at the pace. I was never an amazing swimmer, still my old "personal best" would have me starting with a pace of 14 seconds, so 16 felt terribly slow. I am glad I started with 16s though, because after 8 I felt a wash of lactic acid and had to stop. I was able to complete four more in a row before getting the same feeling, and after that only two more.

Wednesday, May 20th- Breaststroke

The workout:
3x100 warmup
8x25m breaststroke turns
30x25, 100 breaststroke pace (19 sec, made up because I haven't swum 100 SCM breaststroke ever and haven't done 100y for over three years)

How it went: This was rough. I was only able to do 8x25. Overwhelmed with lactic acid after 4x25, then only able to squeeze off two in a row after following the additional rest protocol. I spent a lot of time thinking, and came up with two theories that I intend to test out. One is that 19 was too fast, and I will try 20 next time. The other is that I have never really done anything close to breastroke race pace capacity work in my whole swimmer career, so maybe this will be a slow way up. I am determined to work from wherever I am and work my way up. Also, my turns felt very uncomfortable and I need to start stretching again as my flexibility is bad!

Thursday, May 21st- Freestyle

The workout:
3x100 warmup
10x15m breakout
30x25, 100 pace freestyle (16 sec)

How it went: Progress! I was able to do 22x25. Again I was limited not by the pace but by lactic acid, but it came on much later this time. I swam 12x25, needed a break, then 6x25, a break, then 4x25. I felt encouraged by my progress, and could feel that I was in something resembling a rhythm. I am going to wait until I have a couple practices where I swim 30x25 on pace, and then hopefully set my pace up.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Rough Lesson on Electrolytes

Recently, G John Mullen had me on the Swimming Science Podcast.  I thought it went well, but during the recording I was forced to admit that my performance at Sectionals in early March was a big let-down.  I felt "off" all weekend and I couldn't really explain it.  I hadn't felt bad like that since switching to the LCHF diet, and with the way my training had been since December I was expecting to rock both breaststroke events.

After the meet I went to the doctor to chat about what might be wrong.  I was weak, a little achy, but nothing too strange... both of my kids had been sick so I thought I might just be fighting something... but then I started piecing together some clues that made me start down a new rabbit hole on the google.

I had been getting a little light-headed when getting up from my chair, which isn't that odd since my blood pressure is naturally so low, but it was something I remembered being frequent when I first started the new diet and was running a lot that I hadn't really experienced in a while.   My leg cramps had also returned with a vengeance over the last few weeks... I should have seen all of the signs that I wasn't paying enough attention to electrolytes, but I had been busy enough with work that I just didn't take the time to think it through.

The other symptoms were new.  At the meet I had been joking with a few people that I must have added all of my muscle in my legs because my TYR AP-12 was extra tight, which is strange because it is a pretty worn suit.  My jeans also felt tight.  Also, I have always twitched while falling asleep, but recently it had gotten out of control-- it was lasting all night and was at the point where my wife was making me sleep on the couch.

My dreams were awesome but I can understand why she wanted it to stop.

By the time I got to the doctor the next week I had noticed that my ankles were swollen enough that you might have guessed I was pregnant.

It took like 4 hours to get my tech suit on.

Here's the list:

  • Leg cramps at night had returned to the level they were when I first started the diet.
  • Lightheaded when I got out of the chair.
  • Twitching was worse and lasted through the night.
  • Legs, particularly ankles, were swollen.
  • Weak, with aches.
Well, here's what it boils down to:
  • I left my normal diet routine.  I had to travel during the week and was left to eat at restaurants, leaving my normal routine along with electrolyte supplements out of the picture.  The normal foods I eat that make me feel great were not available.  Bad idea for meet week.  The LCHF diet is kind of like a diuretic, as without the abundant glucose bonding to water, we don't retain as much.  We have to replace electrolytes more frequently.  
  • I experimented with baking soda supplementation.  There is a lot of recent research showing that it might actually be legit.

As far as the routine is concerned, I just wasn't smart enough to think ahead and plan for my abnormal week.  My bad.  The baking soda though, had never been anything but good in the past. If the idea is to ward off the acidity that interferes with muscle fiber contraction at the end of a race, lowering your pH at race time might be a pretty good bio-hack. I had been reading up quite a bit on it, and I think that they need to add an asterisk to the research.  I think the diuretic effect of this diet makes me need to be a little more cautious with the sodium bicarbonate than the average racer.

As I was looking up symptoms of electrolyte issues, I discovered that all of the stuff on my list could be attributed to low potassium.  I have always monitored this pretty closely and had become a little lax, sure.  But, then I stumbled upon a post on reddit that implied that baking soda supplementation can cause hypokalemia (low potassium) by itself.  This, I believe, is why my symptoms were so much more pronounced than ever before.  I had already been on the edge of a problem, and the bicarb opened the floodgates.

This might seem like a pretty involved excuse for not swimming fast, but that is not my intention.  (As a coach I have heard some pretty elaborate excuses as I am sure you can imagine.)  It is more of a cautionary tale.  Self-experimentation means you might have to become a little bit of a detective.  My doctor didn't know what to tell me.  I had to research it and figure out why I didn't seem to have ankle bones anymore and why I had become a Mexican jumping bean at night.  I just hope this tale of electrolytes gone bad helps anyone experimenting with keto to watch out for issues that need to be addressed!

Once I realized what was going on I added some potassium rich foods back into my diet, like spinach and avocado.  I took a few extra of the 99mg potassium gluconate supplements I normally use, and I started using nuun tablets a little more frequently.  Of course, I also did not touch the baking soda.  By the end of the week my ankles looked human, and I hit a 2:07 200 breast in a time trial just to make myself feel better and redeem the lousy 2:09 I did the week before.  All is good now and I am back to training after a short break.  

How did your season ending meet go?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

USA Swimming Has Officially Entered the LCHF Fray

Yay!  A rebuttal fromUSA Swimming!  At least now I know that they are actually reading my stuff, eh?   

I am pretty sure they have been trying to pretend I don't exist since they turned down my application for the National Team Director position

Jill Castle is an MS, RDN, and has a website that promotes her two books on childhood nutrition, so I have to say she does have some skin in the game here.  I am not really making money on this stuff, but that is beside the point.  If she is so highly qualified, why is she making so many strong claims with no sources cited to back her up?

Read her article here at the USA Swimming website.

Her claims I can refute?:

“Both a low-fat diet supports and sustains cardiovascular health, and a high-carbohydrate diet is effective at fueling aerobic-based sports such as swimming.”

Well, actually, most of the gains in cardiovascular health with the low-fat diet come from people paying attention to what they eat and avoiding many of the foods that are obviously less healthy, like fried breading, sweets and sugary drinks.  As a matter of fact, this study addressed exactly that, and showed that while many diets made progress when leaving the crazy standard American diet behind, the low-carb diet did better in every measure of cardiovascular health, including more weight lost.  The low-fat diet has it's own risks that I would say are worse.

...and on the point of which is better to fuel aerobic-based sports, with the RQ improvements shown in the Manifesto, I would say that fat is the better fuel once adapted. Fat may not generate ATP as efficiently as carbohydrate to fuel high intensity exercise even with fat-adaptation, but if our goal is to train our bodies to draw more power aerobically by converting fast-twitch muscle fiber to become oxidative rather than glycolytic, I would say that excess carbs are adding interference that stands in the way.  This guy at Reddit did the complex math and it seems that glucose still wins by a hair, but the increase in hemoglobin due to the high presence of Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (a prevalent ketone body,) probably trumps it in athletics, before even considering the potential change-over in fast-twitch muscle fibers from type 2b to 2a, and the glycogen sparing effect, which would be pretty valuable, not just in racing, but in training as well.  My contention is that with a long-enough adaptation, the trade-off is better in the way it actually applies to our sport.  Plus, just because you are eating low-carb, it doesn't mean that muscle glycogen is never re-fueled. I am pretty sure that no matter what you eat, during taper with the decreased workload, your muscle glycogen builds back up even if it is done slowly. I truly feel that my Viking Method gives me the best of both worlds and as I have said before, I feel better at high intensity than I ever have.

The ability to perform high intensity work is compromised due to decreased glycogen (carbohydrate) muscle stores.” 

Ummm… I just covered that--  that was kind of the whole point of the Manifesto—to show that this might not actually be the case.  I think I have already presented a pretty good argument there, that with adaptation time even high intensity parameters can improve.  Are you gonna tell me that LeBron James isn’t able to be intense in practice and games? 

“The negative side effects of the high-fat/ketogenic diet for sport have been outlined in the research and include:”

-dehydration.  Yeah.  This one I admit.  When you no longer store as much glucose, you no longer store as much water... but has there ever been any advice out there for athletes that included drinking less water?  Drink when you are thirsty and supplement with electrolytes.  You should be doing that if you are eating high-carb too.

-hypoglycemia (low blood sugar): It has been shown repeatedly in studies, not only in athletics but even in starvation as well, that in the absence of carbohydrate the human body actually does a better job of maintaining blood glucose at healthy levels once adapted.  When we eat carbohydrates, our blood sugar spikes and dips as insulin fights to regulate glucose levels. When we don't, we stay at a healthy level.  Check out this interesting case of a 40 day starvation fast:

Not that I am recommending forty days without eating to lose that last few pounds, but hey... it worked for this guy.

-increased risk of kidney stones.  This was a side effect in studies on children using the ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy.  In those studies, besides carbohydrate being severely restricted, water was often restricted as well. (As she points out in her article, the ketogenic diet for epilepsy is very different from the one recommended for athletes.) In later studies they have shown that this is not a concern provided that a person is properly hydrated, and in cases where it became a concern a simple prescription of potassium citrate often solved the problem. Many people also assume that since a ketogenic athlete might eat more protein when they cut out the carbs, that this is inherently harder on the kidneys. This is a myth.  One meta-analysis found high protein consumption might actually be preventive regarding many of the ailments that standard nutritional hype attributes to it.  Mark's Daily Apple does a nice write up here about kidneys and diet.  It's worth a read and has great links to back it up too.  Even the American Diabetes Association had to admit that low-carb isn't a concern with kidneys after this study comparing LCHF to Mediterranean and Low-Fat Diets.

-acidosis—um, I think she is too educated to be making this mistake.  She is confusing nutritional ketosis with ketoacidosis. Silly diet experts. Ugh.  There are some concerns with pH levels and those articles often refer to the potential for developing kidney stones as well, but most ketogenic diet resources have tips to make sure this is not an issue.  If this is an issue, you most likely have something else going on and the diet helped to expose it.

-weight loss—for most athletes, weight loss is a healthy goal.  The trick is to lose the weight in a way that spares muscle mass, which is one of the biggest benefits of the ketogenic diet over a high-carb diet.  We have all seen athletes who put in the work but still carry extra weight and can't seem to get as lean as everyone else. Heck, I know a guy who trains for triathlons about twenty hours a week and destroys everyone in the Clydesdale category, but you would think after ten years of bad-ass training he might be close to his old fighting weight, right?  Not even close.  It is hard to fathom, but carbs signal the body to store fat, and it is amazing how well that can be done even in the face of super high energy burning.  This study kind of cracked me up, because they claim their results prove that calories in/ calories out applies for weight loss no matter the macro-nutrient content, but then they are actually showing that when the dieters decreased the carbs and upped the protein and fat, their body composition improved.  The excess calories were stored, so technically they didn't lose weight, which I guess proves their point, but if you read it carefully you see that one group ended up leaner and stronger, meaning one group stored their equivalent weight as fat and the other group weighed the same but had less body fat percent and more lean muscle mass. (Those who consumed normal- and high- protein diets stored 45% of the excess calories as lean tissue, or muscle mass, while those on the low-protein diet stored 95% of the excess calories as fat.) Now tell me, is there anyone on a weight loss diet who would be disappointed with their weight not decreasing when it was because they were leaner with more muscle?  On the reddit keto forums, if you browse for a while, you will see this very thing over and over... so many people post that they were frustrated with the scale not moving until they realized their pants were looser and they needed a new belt even at the same weight.  Are there any athletes out there who wouldn't want this?  My recent body composition stats gel with this finding as well, as I have gained muscle without lifting.

-poor growth- The ketogenic diet for epilepsy often has protein severely restricted to prevent gluconeogenesis, or creating glucose from proteins.  Sometimes this is enough interference to cause some patients to have a lessened effect in seizure control.  This is certainly not the recommendation for athletes, and in her article she even compares this diet to the macronutrient contents of the keto diet for athletes:  "The traditional ketogenic diet is a modified blend of nutrients consisting of 90% fat, 2% carbohydrate and 8% protein, and has been used in children with seizure disorders and more recently in the management of obesity and other conditions. The high-fat/ketogenic diet used in athletes and research studies is generally modified to 70% fat, 15% protein and 15% carbohydrate."  I am not sure why anyone assumes that eating less carbohydrate would interfere with growth considering that fats and proteins are the building blocks for our cellular structure, but okay... maybe those ultra-healthy eskimo's had loaves of bread stashed somewhere that they hid from the white man when we arrived and started documenting their habits.  There is a lot of great farm land up there in the tundra.
It is more believable that they had these than that they had wheat fields.

-high fats (lipids) in the bloodstream—umm… waitamminit.  Nearly every study done in the last ten years shows the opposite of this.  And even those who are hyper-responders, developing more cholesterol from saturated fats, are typically shown to still have less risk for heart disease over-all based on overall improvement in risk factors when going low-carb.  The studies that show increased lipids and risk for heart disease are the ones that increase the fat without significantly reducing the carbs.  Recent studies have shown that even with the extreme macro-nutrient ratios of the ketogenic diet for epilepsy, this is not a cause for concern as the elevated cholesterol levels that typically come with the diet in some patients eventually calm down.  The only reason everyone thinks that carbs are good for the heart is because fiber can reduce cholesterol.  Big whoop...  Most ketogenic dieters get more fiber from green vegetables, even without the grains.  Also, the health risks of high cholesterol might not even outweigh the health risks associated with high fiber.  The meds they give you to control your cholesterol have also been proving to be worse than high cholesterol itself.

Remember this graph from the Manifesto?:
'nuff said.

-vitamin and trace element deficiencies— Include your green veggies if you are worried about it, and if you go full carnivore, eat your eggs, sardines, shellfish and liver.  It’s as simple as that.  I am not sure I have seen a single study that shows these deficiencies even in severely restricted epilepsy patients.  As a matter of fact, liver is a better choice for vitamins and minerals than any grain or other plant matter out there.  

-anemia-- where is she getting this from?  If she is talking Iron anemia-- I am not sure I know anyone who eats more red meat than me, which covers that easily even without all of the other foods I get iron from.  B12:  fish, shellfish, liver...  What about folate?:  The low-carb veggies are some of the best for this one.  Try spinach, avocado, asparagus-- this one is new to me.

My contention here is not that we have to be in ketosis all the time.  Kids do naturally have it easier regarding moving in and out of ketosis as they generally have not developed the insulin resistance levels of most adults.  I just think that the standard high-carb recommendations are insane.  Come on!  700 grams!?  70% of calories from carbohydrate?!  Ben Greenfield recommends between 100-200 grams of carbohydrate for those in endurance training.  This recommendation is also echoed by Dr Tim Noakes in a recent podcast about LCHF and children. Dr Noakes even lays out a pretty good argument for why LCHF would be better for kids than the grain-based high carb diet too. There are plenty of articles out there about how to help your kids safely eat a low-carb diet if you take the time to look it up on the Google.  To put it simply though, if you cut out grains, sweets and fake vegetable oils you are about 80% of the way there.  Does anyone really think that would be bad for kids?

There is a new movie out called Cereal Killers 2:  Run on Fat.  Please, check it out.  This movie features some of the leaders in low-carb athletics.  You can also watch part 1 here.  They both do a fantastic job of laying out the case for low-carb and are just excellent films that stand on their own merit.

Also, yesterday I was invited to be on the Swimming Science Podcast with G John Mullen, so watch for a link soon!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Films to Spread the Word About LCHF.

By now I assume your compulsion to believe everything you read on the internet has consumed you and you are ready to take the Viking's advice to drop the carbs...  but if you are like me, you have that one MAJOR obstacle:  well-meaning family and friends who want to prevent you from clogging your arteries with this crazy diet.  They try to shove bread down your gullet and sneak it into your snacks to prevent you from getting that dreaded "bread-deficiency disease" that they all assume must exist since, well...  I guess since Jesus was such a nice guy and gave people all that bread back in the day.

Nosey acquaintances will very rarely read the scientific mumbo-jumbo you throw in their faces, and they are often quick to dismiss anything that isn't their idea. That free donut at the faculty meeting makes a compelling argument compared to some pieces of paper with charts and scientific proof on it that say bacon is a healthier option.  Also, we have commercials like this to thank for making breakfast cereal look like it will automatically make you awesome at things like mystery solving, crimefighting and gymnastics all at the same time.

The only way to win them over?:  a film festival.  Get out some pork rinds and cheese dip and get your education on.  Here are some of your best options:  (Sorry, some of these require payment to rent or buy.)

1. Fathead

2. Cereal Killers part 1

3. Cereal Killers part 2: Run on Fat

4. Carb-Loaded:  A Culture Dying to Eat

5. The Perfect Human Diet

...and just for kicks, I am adding Dr. Barry Groves' HOMO CARNIVORUS in case the high production values of the other movies seem shady to them and they just need a good old power-point lecture.  Please watch it if you haven't already.  It will blow your mind and leave you wondering if your mom permanently damaged your health by forcing you to eat all those veggies when you were little.

Oh yeah... you should expect to be forced to watch the anti-LCHF movie that is based on vegan principles: "Forks Over Knives."  T. Colin Campbell makes a pretty compelling case in his film based on one of the largest nutrition studies in history, referred to as the "China Study,"  but anyone who directs you to that needs to be directed to this:  Raw Foods SOS

At Raw Foods SOS, a former Vegan and statistics fetishist, Denise Minger, butchers Dr Campbell's interpretation of data to show that maybe Vegans should just shut up and eat a steak. This is seriously worth the read.  She also wrote a book called Death by Food Pyramid that thoroughly explains the screwed up scientific and political breakdown that led to our government food guidelines getting so off-track.

Let me know what you think after you have your movie marathon.  I just watched Cereal Killers 2 for the first time this morning, and I have to say it is an excellent film that I hope a lot of people see and consider carefully.

Monday, March 2, 2015

THE VIKING MANIFESTO Part 7: How Do I Get Started on the LCHF Diet?

THE VIKING MANIFESTO: Piecing Together a New Approach to Nutrition and Training for Swimmers from Scientific and Anecdotal Evidence.
Part 7:  How Do I Get Started on the LCHF Diet?

Mark’s Daily Apple just helped you lose the extra weight with one drawing.

If you are still following along with the Manifesto at this point, then you must at least be intrigued enough to want to know what the low-carb, high-fat diet would look like in real life.  You may not quite be ready to drop the traditional nutrition info recommended by USA Swimming in articles like this, and presentations like this, but you at least want to know how different this might really be.  I doubt anyone wants to take it as far as I have, which means going almost completely carnivorous, but if you read below you can see that it doesn’t have to be that extreme.    This cat lived to be age 39 on bacon, eggs, broccoli and coffee. It can’t be that hard, right?  

39 year old cat.jpg
Bacon, eggs, broccoli and coffee.  This is key in my plot to break Jaring Timmerman’s records in the 100-104 age group.

The question is, do you have the nuggets to give this a try long enough to adapt and see if the low-carb, high-fat diet is really for you?

If you were to just jump in and try a low-carb high-fat or ketogenic diet, you would most likely feel miserable for a while and your performance in practice and meets would tank.  My contention throughout this multi-part series is that if you stick with it long enough to adapt your performance will recover in every way, and will improve significantly in some of the most important parameters of swimming training.  Add the correct training and this effect can be enhanced even more. So far though, I haven’t really gone into detail about how you would go about making the switch to LCHF in the most safe and efficient way.  I believe that this is optimal for everyone, but I also know that people who don’t have the force of will to be meticulous about it at first may have a bumpy ride.  

My basic advice?

  1. Do not jump into this in the middle of a season.  Use the time between seasons to get started because it is best to give yourself some adaptation time without the stress of a heavy training load.  There will also be a period of time where performance in practice and meets may suffer.  To give yourself the best chance of sticking with it you should use the pre-season to adjust.
  2. Make a doctor’s appointment.  Talk to your doctor about the change you want to make.  If you are nervous about taking nutrition advice from a stranger with an obsession with Norse culture, ask the doc for a full metabolic panel so that you have stats to compare later to know if there are any issues that come up that would cause you to need to adjust what you are doing.  This is not just about cholesterol.  Thyroid stimulating hormone, C-reactive Protein, A1C and other measurements can be included and monitored as well.  You will see some details below on why this might matter, but honestly, I wish I had done this myself just so that I could have shown off my improvements with some real stats.  Be prepared for push-back from the doctor though-- this is not what they were taught in med school so once in a while they might try to talk you out of it just because they don’t know much about it.  I printed stuff to bring to my doctor but she didn’t need to see it.  She was immediately on board and encouraged me to keep it up.
  3. My Fitness Pal and Runkeeper are your new best friends.  It is vital that you track your calorie burning and food intake, at least for the time that you are learning how to manage this diet.  This is not just for calories sake, and not just to monitor your macro-nutrient percentages.  It is also important to track sodium and potassium due to the water-shedding effect of LCHF.  If you want to see what I really eat and how I really train, ask to be my friend within these apps.  These apps are now just a routine part of my day.
  4. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ADOPT THIS LIFESTYLE WITHOUT THOROUGHLY READING UP ON IT.  Think about it.  You are taking nutrition advice from a stranger on the internet who you know nothing about except that he likes his hats to have horns.  Do your damn research and don’t just take my word for it.  At the bottom of this post will be a list of recommended reading.  Some of it should be considered REQUIRED READING and they will be marked with a **.  Do not skip these!

When someone asks me what it is I did to lose all this weight, I ask them “do you really want to know, or are you just making conversation?”  I don’t want to suck any unsuspecting friends into the rabbit hole with me just because they were being nice.  If they want to know, I send them this brief write-up I have saved on my phone:

Target around .8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean body weight.  ( I calculated that by subtracting my % body fat from my actual weight.)  More protein is okay sometimes, but less is not if you are working out. Stay between 0 and 150 grams carbohydrate.  The rest of your calories should come from fats. This is where you get your energy from. On the days you don't work out, stay at the lower end of the carbohydrates. When you are working out consistently and you have reached the weight you want to be at, it probably won’t hurt to have more.   Between ten and thirty percent of calories is plenty even for an ultra-endurance athlete. A ketogenic diet is normally considered to be one that stays below 50 grams of carbohydrate, but in heavy training you can probably be in ketosis without going quite that low.

Recommended foods: fatty meats (too much lean meat is high protein, low fat); olive oil (cold); coconut oil (the only one to cook with besides animal fats like lard); butter; heavy cream instead of milk; nuts, but not peanuts; seafood (get some canned sardines in olive oil, shrimp, etc.); lots of eggs; avocado; green leafy vegetables.

AVOID: partially hydrogenated oils; wheat, beans, rice, potatoes, legumes; sweets; sugary drinks, including sports drinks; anything deep fried and breaded is from the devil.  It is easy to over-do fruit: fructose refuels liver glycogen, which stands in the way of fat adaptation a little. Ideally the carbs you eat should go toward refueling muscle glycogen rather than liver if your goal is to stay in ketosis.  The more fibrous fruits, like berries, are best.

ELECTROLYTES: you will want to drink lots of water because the lower you go on carbs the more it is like a diuretic. This causes you to pee out electrolytes. The recommended supplementation is 5000 mg sodium, 1500 mg potassium, and 300 mg magnesium although sometimes it helps me to go higher. If you get leg cramps at night take another magnesium and/or back off the water a little and see if it helps.  I have even been adding a half-teaspoon of baking soda to my water once in a while and it seems to help with my leg cramps as well.

Basically, keto looks like this:
keto food pyramid.JPG
Yup.  You are flipping the food pyramid upside down.

Once you get used to eating this way, you may not feel hungry as often as you did before.  Part of the reason I started tracking with My Fitness Pal was because I could go so long without eating that I worried I wasn’t eating enough.  I now have to double check to make sure I am getting enough food to maintain my weight.  I am not kidding.  I no longer have the blood-sugar dips, afternoon sleepiness or food cravings that were once a normal part of my day.  Yes, the carb cravings eventually go away.  The hardest part of this diet is social:  you will be amazed at how much carbohydrate is thrown in your face every day, and you will eventually marvel at how much of what others eat is stuff that you no longer even consider to be food.  The guilt trips people lay on you over not eating a cracker can be sheer lunacy.

At first it was like this.  Now I walk into the teacher workroom and in my mind, those donuts might as well be bicycle parts.

But, Viking… none of these foods come in a box?!  How am I supposed to do a ketogenic diet around my crazy work schedule?  This was actually the hardest part for me at first.  I thought this diet would be expensive and I assumed I would not be able to do it since I am at the pool for most of my meals.  When I did the math on the two or three fast food combo meals a day I was eating before, I realized pretty quickly that keto could be cheaper… but then I had to prepare my own meals.  How do I manage that?: Simple-- I have a mini-fridge, a microwave and a George Foreman grill.  Easy peasy.  I stop by the grocery store on Monday mornings on the way to work and get my food for the week.  If I have time to stop by the butcher I stock up there as well.  (They sell individual 8 oz club steaks for $3.75!)   I learned to make some really kick ass scrambled eggs in the microwave and the rest is pretty easy.  Plus, anything can be made yummy with either cheese or Frank’s Red Hot all over it.  Am I right?  

DaVinci. Galileo. Edison. Tesla. Foreman.  This grill might be one of the most life-changing inventions in history.

Also, there are a million places online with keto friendly recipes, and many of them are creative ways to have your favorite non-keto meals in a low-carb way with substitutions.  You will see a lot of things like crushed pork rinds used as breading, or pizza crusts and taco shells made of bacon or cheese, which is better than bread anyway.  I mean, really… if you think even the Doritos taco shell beats a bacon taco shell, you got issues.

Can there be dangers associated with going low carb?  Well, yeah, but they can be managed.  Electrolytes are something that need to be taken seriously.  They are vital for heart function, and too much potassium can be even worse than not enough. I supplement daily with magnesium and potassium just to be sure I stay in a good range and I pay attention to MFP to make sure.  I also do not avoid salty foods. Ben Greenfield wrote an excellent article about what he believes are the four dangers of going low-carb, and fortunately he is a guy who not only manages this in his own triathlon training but is also a personal trainer who helps other athletes as well.  In this article, he recommends between 100-200 grams of carbohydrate for those who train with high-volume for a few reasons, which is still very low.  (He trained and rocked an IronMan this way.)  When he did his AMA on reddit I asked him how many carbs are necessary for my particular low-volume training regimen and he said I should be fine with 40-60 grams of carbohydrate which is about where I land naturally.  Of course, there are those out there doing high volume training with carb counts lower than mine, and Dr Attia is one of them, as he tells us in this podcast interview he did with Ben Greenfield. In that interview Dr Attia goes into detail about electrolytes, heavy training, and many other details about mistakes he made in managing the diet and I consider it mandatory listening. Unfortunately, in that interview, Dr Attia also says he wouldn’t recommend ketosis for a pool swimmer, but on that point I disagree with him simply based on my personal experience. (I don’t think he has ever heard of USRPT.)

Paul Jaminet, author of The Perfect Health diet, has also written a series of articles laying out what he thinks can be dangerous, even going so far as to speculate that there might be a “carbohydrate deficiency disease.”  He also claims that there are “nitrogen balance” issues with eating too much protein.  These are worth a read.  I am not trying to scare you away, of course, but I want you to see some points on the other side of the argument, so that if you should run into any problems you might have a resource to seek out changes that can make this diet more beneficial to you.

Are carbs gonna kill me if I eat them every once in a while?  Nah…  Mark’s Daily Apple has an 80% rule, meaning that we are creating good habits and if you change your lifestyle to eat right 80% of the time you are probably doing just fine.  I still enjoy ice cream with my kids once in a while.  I do avoid grains as much as possible, including rice and corn because they make me feel like crap.  Beans also give me stomach issues.  To be honest, most of my carbs are from fibrous green veggies, nuts, dark chocolate and red wine. Plus, Dr Attia claims that after exercise we may be able to eat some carbs without interfering with ketosis at all by calculating the glucose deficit based on workload, which is pretty handy for when you just feel like scarfing down something sweet.  There are also variations of the diet that are outlined in the /r/keto FAQ that incorporate carbs on a schedule so if you are struggling with straight up keto you can look into those to see if they work better for you.  Of course, after adapting for a while you may not feel the need.

...sometimes a treat is worth it.

What about cholesterol?  Well, just last week our government announced they will be removing cholesterol rich food avoidance from their guidelines.  Yup, eggs are back.  I recently wrote a post on cholesterol that has some links embedded within it if you are concerned and want to read up, but in the list of resources below I have the ** next to the /r/keto FAQ.  It is required reading and goes into detail about cholesterol and what to watch for when you get that metabolic panel at the doctor’s office.  Essentially, high cholesterol isn’t as great an indicator of heart disease as we have been told.  Here is a nice chart that shows how a typical person changing from the standard American diet to LCHF will fare regarding risk factors for heart disease:


A typical day of eating for the Viking?  

Breakfast:  six eggs scrambled in the microwave with Kerrygold butter, heavy whipping cream, Morton’s light salt, and occasionally some bacon cooked in the microwave as well.  Lots of coffee.  

Lunch:  Steak.  Usually not over $5 worth.  I don’t avoid the fat and gristle.  The cheap cuts are actually healthier most of the time as the expensive ones are often too lean.  Once a week or so, I add 4 oz of liver, and butter to go with my steak.

Dinner:  Salad made from raw spinach, nuts, olive oil, avocado, and some kind of seafood like sardines, salmon/ tuna from a pouch or shrimp that just need to be thawed with running water.  

If I am busy and get stuck hitting the drive thru?:  Many burger places just lettuce wrap their burgers and that makes it pretty easy.  Some, like Wendy’s let you order combo’s with side salads and ranch dressing rather than fries. Hardee’s and Wendy’s also put great coupons in the Sunday paper, and Wendy’s also puts coupons on their receipts.  Occasionally I can get two ⅓ pound burgers at Hardee’s for $4, and a triple baconator can be $4 as well if you pay attention to your coupons and deals.  Hardee’s is so keto-friendly that they have a low-carb breakfast bowl, and Sonic will even let you just order bacon and eggs if you sweet talk them. Dollar menu burgers are great too with no bun and no ketchup.  Sometimes I even use the meat from McDoubles as the bun for my grilled chicken club.  

meatatarian delight.JPG
Not kidding.  I invented my own McMeatatarian Delight.  

Also, in my town every BBQ place does all-you-can-eat ribs on Tuesday nights.  They all know me by name.

All-You-Can-Eat Ribs.

Snacks to put in your swim bag?  Quest bars are keto-legal even though they list as high-carb, simply because most of the carbs are fiber, leaving only three or four grams of active carbohydrate. (Some people doing this diet subtract the fiber carbs from the rest to come up with “net” carbs.) Quest bars are pretty common in supplement and nutrition shops.   Even better though are KETOBARS.  This is a company that was started by a redditor who saw a need and I love them.  If you order some, leave them a note that the Viking sent you.

I plan to keep writing on this topic, and may post a bit more at SwimSwam, but a lot of additional posts will continue to be made at The Swim Brief, as they will be supplemental and will often be about my own personal second-swimming-career adventure.  I love discussing this stuff so please don’t hesitate to shoot questions my way, and if you see me on deck feel free to grab my attention.  I learn new things every week and I love to share.  I don’t expect everyone out there to have read every detail of the Manifesto, but I hope that a lot of coaches have it saved in their browser to go back and catch up if they haven’t kept up.  I also hope that readers take time to browse some of the many links throughout the articles as there is so much more info out there if you just keep following the science.  As you can see, this stuff is slowly hitting the mainstream so my ideas here may not seem so far-fetched in the near-future.  

I am not the only low-carb swimmer out there, and I have a feeling that soon we will start seeing more and more keto swimmers crawling out of the woodwork.  Until then, I hope to swim fast enough to make more SwimSwammers and SwimBriefers do a double-take and go back to read up on how I am getting the job done.  Wish me luck.

Recommended Reading and Resources:

The Eating Academy, Peter Attia, MD **be sure to read their FAQ as well!  **be sure to read the FAQ and Keto in a Nutshell!!  
The search function within all of the keto subreddits can also help you find answers to just about any questions that come up!!


Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD

Grain Brain by Dr David Perlmutter

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney

Movies and Videos:  (lots more are listed in the /r/keto FAQ and “nutshell”!)

**and of course, you can always contact me through SwimSwam or the Swim Brief if you would like to learn more.  


Keto Diet, Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal:

keto app logo.PNG  runkeepermyfitnesspaljoinhands.jpeg